Expanding the world of his classic-in-the-making debut novel Early Work, Andrew Martin’s Cool for America is a hilarious collection of overlapping stories that explores the dark zone between artistic ambition and its achievement
The collection is bookended by the misadventures of Leslie, a young woman (first introduced in Early Work) who moves from New York to Missoula, Montana to try to draw herself out of a lingering depression, and, over the course of the book, gains painful insight into herself through a series of intense friendships and relationships.
Other stories follow young men and women, alone and in couples, pushing hard against, and often crashing into, the limits of their abilities as writers and partners. In one story, two New Jersey siblings with substance-abuse problems relapse together on Christmas Eve; in another, a young couple tries to make sense of an increasingly unhinged veterinarian who seems to be tapping, deliberately or otherwise, into the unspoken troubles between them. In tales about characters as they age from punk shows and benders to book clubs and art museums, the promise of community acts—at least temporarily—as a stay against despair.
Running throughout Cool for America is the characters’ yearning for transcendence through art: the hope that, maybe, the perfect, or even just the good-enough sentence, can finally make things right.